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Fighter on Fighter: Breaking down UFC Fight Night 94’s Dustin Poirier

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MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst -- and aspiring professional fighter -- Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC Fight Night 94 headliner Dustin Poirier, who looks to enter the title mix this Saturday night (Sept. 17, 2016) inside State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Lightweight knockout artist, Dustin Poirier, is set to throw down with kickboxing specialist, Michael Johnson, this Saturday (Sept. 17, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 94 on FOX Sports 1 inside State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.

Since moving up to 155 pounds, Poirier’s performances have been incredible. It appears that everything timed out well, as Poirier’s switch occurred at a time when he was really entering his prime, which combined with fighting at a more natural weight has allowed him to really thrive. Already in the Top 10 of his new division, Poirier can break into the immediate title mix with a win here. That’s a stacked group of fighters, but Poirier can definitely turn some heads if he keeps landing such devastating knockouts.

Let’s take a closer look at the Louisiana-native’s skill set:

Striking

In just four fights, Poirier has proven himself one of the division’s most powerful punchers. In fact, the first two men he knocked out had never been finished via strikes, and Bobby Green is notoriously durable as well.

The man hits hard.

Poirier’s boxing game revolves around power. He’ll mix some jabs into his combinations, but there’s no doubt that Poirier is looking to step into the pocket and fire off combinations of potentially fight-ending shots.

For the most part, Poirier fights out of the Southpaw stance. Occupying his opponent’s lead hand with his own (assuming he’s facing a right-handed opponent), the leftie will shoot out a sharp cross into his opponent’s chin. While he can throw the punch from a measured stance, he’ll also step deeper into the punch, allowing him to more easily follow up with a crushing right hook (GIF).

That may not be a tactic for more defensive fighters, but MMA is all about risk and reward. When Poirier connects, the reward is usual a knockout.

One of the more interesting things about Poirier’s boxing is his recent addition of shifting punches and striking from Orthodox. Poirier may have absolutely massive power in his left hand (GIF), but he can crack from Orthodox as well.

In an example of shifting punches, Poirier will sometimes follow up his deep left hand by stepping into Orthodox rather than attacking with his usual right hook. This creates a new angle, and he’ll often fire off the jab from his new stance, a great tactic opposite opponents looking to back away from his punches.

Against Bobby Green, Poirier’s shifting tactics paid off in a big way. Green gets a fair amount of shit for dropping his hands and showboating, but he rolls with punches pretty damn well considering the 4 oz. gloves. Both men were landing some shots early, but Poirier dramatically shifted the flow of the bout by stepping into Orthodox with a left hand. Green deflected the first three punches, but when Poirier doubled up on the left (with the second coming as an Orthodox left hook), Green moved directly into the punch and went down (GIF).

In Poirier’s bout with Joe Duffy, he was forced to use his new comfort in the Orthodox stance in another way. Since he couldn’t afford to box with the Irishman, Poirier switched it up and made the fight ugly as possible, thriving in close exchanges. A couple times, Poirier would lunge with his left cross and use it to latch onto a single collar-tie with that same hand. From there, he would attack with right hooks and uppercuts.

Additionally, the aforementioned left hand roll into Orthodox and jabs helped him back Duffy into the fence.

It’s become a bit less of a focus, but Poirier is a solid kicker as well. Against Duffy’s long frame and jab, Poirier made great use of low kicks. Attacking both inside and outside of his opponent’s leg, Poirier slowed him down and was able to land quality follow up punches.

In other bouts, Poirier has been more reliant on the standard left roundhouse to the body. Since his left hand is such a threat, the left kick is a great weapon that often slips through his opponent’s defenses and lands clean (GIF).

Lastly, Poirier was known early in his UFC career for his dangerous front kick. He doesn’t rely on it so often anymore, but Poirier found great success in walking his opponent down and pushing them into the fence with a punt to the chest (GIF).

Defensively, Poirier has improved quite a bit but will always be hittable due to his pressure-in-the-pocket style. He does a better job of not walking into punches or shelling up and taking shots, but he’s pretty happy to eat a shot in order to land one.

Wrestling

Early in his career, Poirier was not really known as a knockout artist. Instead, the former high school wrestler would physically overpower his opponents and submit them on the mat.

Poirier does much of his best wrestling in the clinch, as he definitely leans on strength more than speed. Once he commits to taking the fight to the mat, Poirier does a very nice job mixing together different trips and foot sweeps. Locking his hands from either the over-under or double underhook position to create a tight body lock, Poirier will look to land an outside trip. If that fails and his opponent is off-balance, Poirier will attempt to spin him with a quick foot sweep.

In addition, Poirier always has the option to pressure into the body lock and force his foe to the mat.

Poirier also looks to level change into the double leg takedown fairly often. There's nothing to complicated here, as Poirier will either look to blast his opponent off his feet with a reactive shot or wait until his foe's back is to the fence. Either way, Poirier's shot and finish are powerful enough to get most men to the mat, and his punches do a nice job of keeping his foe distracted. Opposite Duffy, Poirier repeatedly ducked into the shot following his cross, which allowed him to get in on his opponent’s hips well.

Defensively, Poirier has historically been a very solid. He has a strong sprawl and defends himself particularly well when pressed into the fence, using underhooks and collar ties to force his opponent's posture up. Once he's able to work back into the clinch, he's usually safe from takedowns.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Poirier began his career training under Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Tim Credeur and moved to another submission heavy camp in American Top Team a few years back. Currently, Poirier holds a brown belt and has finished six of his opponents via submission.

Poirier is best known for his d’arce choke — he’s in second place for the most in UFC history — which make full use of his long arms.

There are two main positions from which the d'arce can commonly be hit and Poirier has successfully used both of them. Most recently, Poirier finished off Jonathon Brookins after sprawling out on his opponent's double leg. With Brookins' arms extended and reaching for his legs, Poirier had plenty of space to slip his outside arm around Brookin's head and neck.

Once the hold was locked in, Poirier sat his hips out and circled toward Brookins (GIF). This put even more pressure on the choke, which works the same way as a triangle choke, cutting off both sides of the carotid artery.

Just a few fights earlier, Poirier locked in the d'arce choke from top position in half guard. The d'arce is an excellent counter to the underhook, and using the underhook to stand up from half guard is one of the most common techniques in the sport.

Opposite Pablo Garza, Poirier quickly locked in the d'arce from half guard. This time, he didn't bother sitting out, choosing to flatten out, lay his weight on Garza, and squeeze (GIF).

Finally, Poirier is known to hunt for the arm bar from top position. In Max Holloway's debut, Poirier nearly disarmed the young Hawaiian. However, the "Blessed" fighter toughed it out and rolled into top position, forcing Poirier to change his attack. Rather than abandon the arm bar entirely, Poirier transitioned into a triangle choke, rolled Holloway over, and cranked on his arm once more (GIF).

Conclusion

Poirier has risen quickly through the Lightweight ranks, and he’s done so largely thanks to his ferocious punching power. However, Duffy was the only really refined striker he faced in Duffee, Poirier turned his clinch work and wrestling skill, making it ugly and pulling out the win. He’s now faced with another elite striker, but his one has some considerable wrestling skills as well, making this a hugely intriguing and important bout for "The Diamond."

*****

Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt, is an undefeated amateur fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport's most elite fighters.